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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Narrated by a cynical roommate, this book is the life of Oscar Wao, “a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd…who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkein”. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it is set in America and the Dominican Republic, and is an interesting take on Trujillo’s dictatorship. Trujillo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, was a dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Linked to Trujillo is the Dominican idea of a curse, or fukú, being upon the world: “it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world, and we’ve all been in the shit ever since.” This is how the book begins, as a history of fukú and its opposite, zafa. Yunior, the narrator, says he is writing about Oscar Wao because "This book...a zafa of sorts. My very own counterspell." While this book is mainly about Oscar Wao, it focuses on his sister, Lola, his mother and her family in the Dominican Republic. It is a very revealing novel about the oppressive nature of the Trujillo dictatorship and the family troubles that come with a move to a different country. Junot Díaz, the author, is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic but raised in New Jersey. Díaz could possibly be channeling his experiences into Yunior, Oscar, and Lola. If you enjoy Díaz's writing, I also recommend Julia Alvarez, another Dominican-American author. She wrote In the Time of the Butterflies, inspired by the true story of the Mirabal sisters who rose up against Trujillo and narrated by the surviving sister (three of the sisters were murdered for defying Trujillo) and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, a young adult book about sisters adjusting to life in America after fleeing the Dominican Republic. I hope you choose to read it, again and again and again! Rating: ★★★★★

Catch-22

The Power of One